Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pinnacle of worldly fame

It's all very well to be an Oxford professor, a successful author of books, and to have been awarded a pile of honorary doctorates. That doesn't necessarily make you a famous person.

To become a genuine celebrity, the English biologist Richard Dawkins still needed a greatly-sought-after extra feather in his hat. Happily, we've learned today that the flame of true fame has finally touched Dawkins. Within a few days, he will be able to think of himself, at last, as an international megastar. Next Sunday, on US television, Richard Dawkins will be appearing in an episode of The Simpsons, in the role of himself, using his own voice.


  1. A query for Richard Dawkin's friends.

    It's ironic how 'similar' the militant atheist critics like Jerry Croyne & PZ Meyers are to the fundamentalist Christians they so despise - both sides seem to be big fans of assuming they know what's best for others and trying to censor ideas they don't like. Rupert (U.K.) Sheldrake's persecution is in full swing.

    The U.S.A breed of fanatic, addressing home grown intelligent design model extant mostly in America. Where else do the zealous self righteous hang out from both sides of the coin? It's an american thing! Inquisition cycle and rinse! Hilarious that men gather to condemn others' right to think and reflect on whether non acceptance of a black and white
    model must be heretical banishment. Heard all this before anywhere? Shades of.......?

    Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. Next round, the atheist's turn to screw us all by highjacking science? Thoughts & the right to speak them with no offense to this blog intended, just sharing a freedom while it still exists. True science has an open door and open mind. They don't know it 'all', they sometimes think they do. Hyper-rational can be hyper-
    limiting. Thomas Nagel's, 'Mind & Cosmos' on materialist apostasy pursues the war raging around 'Consciousness'. The Cosmic authority problem or could Nature be teleological not random? Many scientists/atheists have no philosophically trained vision. Provocation is a necessity not censorship. Thanks William.

  2. Hi Remey,

    Over recent years, there have been attempts to relativize the intellectual positions expressed by scientific atheists such as Dawkins, Pinker, Coyne, etc. The general theme of such attempts consists of stating that the opponents on both sides of the fence are necessarily expressing their particular set of beliefs, and that the various sets of beliefs are comparable. No particular set of beliefs should be considered intrinsically as more valuable, better or truer than all the others. In fact, this attitude reminds us of ecumenical approaches to the many different religions. No particular believer should dare to shout out on the rooftops that his religion is right, and that all the others are wrong. He should merely explain calmly and politely that he is personally attached to the set A of religious beliefs (his personal creed), whereas he is prepared to accept the idea that other religious believers might prefer the set B, or C, or D, etc.

    In my native town of Grafton, the Anglican cathedral has been the scene of a colloquium on science and religion, in which well-intentioned and well-behaved specialists from these two domains get together to discuss the hypothetical compatibility between religious beliefs and a scientific world-view. The famous Templeton Prize, in the US, encourages the same kind of polite debating between believers and agnostics.

    Scientists themselves, including atheistic scientists, shouldn't normally find it exceptionally difficult to accept attempts at relativizing their opposition to people in the religious and creationist camps, because they've learned to live with competing theories. Today, or example, string theory is looked upon, by many scientists, as something akin to a belief system. And look at the great wariness with which experimenters are slowly starting to admit that the theoretical Higgs boson has, indeed, probably been detected. Funnily, it's on the religious side that we're accustomed to finding the most draconian individuals, totally unprepared to admit any wavering on the part of those who won't accept all their dogma, lock, stock and barrel. [to be continued]

  3. Isn't it time to say to the strident "Horsemen of New Atheism": We're starting to get fed up with your ceaseless attacks upon everybody who disagrees with you, and your bigoted attempts to censor those who don't share your ideas... which, in fact, are neither better nor worse than the ideas expressed by your opponents. Wouldn't it be preferable if outspoken fellows such as Myers and Coyne (not to mention Dawkins) toned down their verbal violence a little, and agreed to listen calmly, say, to the viewpoints of fellow-scientists such as Nagel and Sheldrake? Couldn't we even imagine that the atheists might be prepared to accept the idea that believers and creationists might have at least a certain degree of fine commonsense to contribute to the big debate on the meaning of existence? Isn't it our moral duty to allow every citizen to believe what he truly belives, without our attempting all the time to throw spanners into the works?

    I shall stop my polite rhetoric at this point... for the simple reason that I disagree completely with most of what I've just been saying. Whenever the absolute atheists make such-and-such a point based upon science, they are not saying: "According to our beliefs, such-and-such a thing is the case." There are no beliefs here, of any kind whatsoever. The atheistic scientists say nothing that cannot be expressed in absolute terms: "Such-and-such a thing is the case." When you attain the degree of scientific knowledge associated with exceptional individuals such as Dawkins, Myers, Coyne, Krauss and Pinker (just to name a few), there is no longer any room for belief systems or opinions. We enter an elitist environment in which broad and deep knowledge is terribly hard to acquire, while it becomes quite easy to recognize "thinkers" who fail to employ and respect the epistemological foundations of modern science as presented by Karl Popper.

    You suggested that "many scientists/atheists have no philosophically trained vision". And there are critics who like to point out that Richard Dawkins has no training in theology. Recently, when Lawrence Krauss wrote A Universe from Nothing, there were critics who declared that he hadn't received sufficient training in philosophy to be able to handle the concept of nothingness. (I don't know whether such critics had Sartre's horrrible L'être et le néant in mind.) Other critics made fun of Sam Harris for daring to write The Moral Landscape. The scientist who has always impressed me most of all for his philosophical vision is Davidf Deutsch. To mind, The Beginning of Infinity is probably the greatest modern treatise on philosophy that exists. But you can find other astounding modern philosophical texts written by scientists. One that impressed me greatly, a decade ago, was Fermat's Last Theorem by Simon Singh. Much of the work on the foundations of computing, evoking the work of Alan Turing and Kurt Gödel, is philosophy of the purest kind, involving concepts that are so difficult to seize (like those of quantum physics) that they make my head whirl, and cause me to fear that I'll go mad in trying to master them. Meanwhile, much of so-called modern philosophy as taught in the arts faculties of universities (in France, for example) is simply a tangle of empty words penned by fashionable celebrities.

  4. Hi William
    Thanks for your good reply.

    I hold no brief for christianity, religous dogma or theological philosophy, you mistake my sources. Consciousness has been my decades long research programme. Quantum physics is a journey into fascinating wierdness territory which provides a profound & exciting revolution.

    A minimal level of experience has Sheldrake, Dean Radin & countless others who verify & use scientific method to publish papers on such things as telepathy, PSI & ultimately a consciousness that exists outside of what neurological science tells us occurs in the physical brain. Their results show there is something going on which cannot be accounted for & requires further studies. This is the minimal end, I repeat.

    It is career suicide for most scientists to get honest about research into PSI subjects. Poll checks have found 51% have their own personal experience & agree with many researchers' findings. The funding of course is decided by Big Pharma, Bill Gates etc. & corporate USA who have a vested interest, (power & control) in deciding which research will go forward. Melbourne University science departments were funded by the U.S. military on their terms for developing their machines of war & is why Assange left in disgust aeons ago. Universities have become a travesty of bias as Governments opt out of funding real & adequate educational resources for the many. Ideas in science are now censored to fit in with a world view decided by a few. You may not like this but it is not a level playing field. The politics are savage & no rational intellectualising on so-called elite results can avoid this reality. Reputation & money count.

    Citizen science is where the genie is out of the bottle in the millions. Mainstream press don't inform how to locate comprehensive advice for directing experiential consciousness experiments (no priests or scientists on how to) just personal. The internet holds vast information for a focus of attention, using the observer/observed effect if you so choose. Skeptic's dismissals are constrained by unconscious paradigmatic limitations. There is only one thing which may shift minds like this: maybe death, who knows? Cheers, in good humoured discussion of differing experience. Thanks William.